Today was annual exam day, the 2nd annual exam with this doctor. Previous health care providers have been lackluster to downright demeaning in their bedside manner. In all of the almost 60 years of having doctors, I remember my pediatrician as being a jolly older gentleman who seemed to enjoy what he did; also, for a brief time, there was a genuinely caring doctor, who unfortunately for me, but fortunately for the patients in the country he went to practice in, left. Between those two standouts have been some who have cajoled, those who have disparaged, those who didn’t have a clue what they were doing, and one who pawned me off to the physician’s assistant in his office and was never seen again.
I went a few years with no doctor but searching for one I could connect with for health maintenance, but more health preparation in the event that a condition developed where knowledge and skill would be needed. A new, competing health corporation — I’m sure they call themselves something more benevolent but this is what they are – came to town, and some physicians from the existing behemoth jumped ship when they were offered a beautiful new building with beautiful new labs, equipment, and services. This doctor was one held up as an icon of professionalism and skill, and I considered myself fortunate to be accepted as one of her patients. It was a 9-month wait to get in to see her last year, and she genuinely helped me out with myriad referrals for a knee that went bad when it got overworked in the gym – which has since healed with months of physical therapy.
Of course every yin has a yang, and this doctor’s yang is something else. Please note there is no judgment on either yin or yang, just using them to show the shadow of the other. She started to do the hard sell the first time I met her, on three things: flu shot, colonoscopy, and mammogram. Her actual examination lasted maybe 5 minutes tops, but the hard sell lasted a good half-hour! She tried every form of coercion she could think of, from her family members dying because they didn’t get the tests, a crying husband because his wife didn’t get the mammogram and later was found with malignancy, to the elderly woman whose husband croaked from the flu because he didn’t get a flu shot. She cited studies done proving that mammograms save lives, that colonoscopies are essential to life, and so are flu shots. Every well-reasoned argument of why I did not want these procedures was met with ever-stronger attempts to neutralize my resistance. At some point I came to the awareness that unless I agreed to *something* she wasn’t going to stop. I finally agreed to the colonoscopy and she immediately declared victory and backed off. I canceled the colonoscopy shortly afterwards and that was that. I’m surprised she didn’t send veteran leg-breakers to my home to extort compliance!
There has been no contact with the office since last year’s annual exam and today’s annual exam. It was the first time being in the one-year-old Palace Of Healing, and it is, indeed, impressive! There is a streamlined check-in process and an interior seating arrangement for patients that is to die for. Inlaid wood on the dome-like ceiling, and the whole front of the building is squares of glass.
I was taken back to the spacious examination room that included all of the shiny baubles any physician would be proud to probe with. The nurse/assistant/tech weighed me on the Mercedes Benz of the scale world, then took my blood pressure with the Lexus of sphygmomanometers. The screen of my medical information whirred to light on the Tesla of computerized gadgetry. The nurse/assistant/tech said, “Have you had your flu shot?” “Have you had a recent mammogram?” “Have you had a recent colonoscopy?”, all met with a negatory, good buddy. She left. Then, 20 or so minutes later, the Icon of Medical Professionals comes in and does an encore of the questions and then I do mine of answers.
As she took a deep breath in preparation of beginning her Spiel of Guiltery, I nipped it in the bud and said, “Last year we had a good half-hour of conversation on these things and I’m continuing to decline having the procedures.”
She said she didn’t remember and that she has 1,300 patients or some such number and can’t remember everyone.
I was simmering but to outward appearances was calm. It was time for the showdown.
I said, “If I choose to continue to decline these procedures, can I remain a patient here?”
She said, “Yes, but every time you come in here I will be doing my best to convince you to get the procedures done. Can you continue to be a patient here knowing that?”
That seemed to satisfy her need and she typed a few words on the Tesla.
We continued to talk and she did discover there was something she could refer me out for that I would go along with. She was in an almost euphoric state as she Tesla’ed orders, notes, etc. She briskly rose and said her good-byes.
The scheduler came into the room next and set the appointment for the next annual exam.